Yo-yo effect: shooting yourself in the foot

Yo-yo effect: shooting yourself in the foot

Beach season is approaching fast and there are many who are now trying to lose the weight they “found” during winter. If this something you do every year, take note, as this is tremendously dangerous and counterproductive thing to do. “Weight cycling” as it’s referred to by scientists just takes your dreams of a fit and healthy body further and further away – the yo-yo effect will make any future weight loss project less effective. Well, at least this has recently been shown on mice – but the scientists doubt that it would not hold true for humans as well.

Yo-yo effect research

Two groups of mice were prescribed two different diets: the control group got regular chow, the intervention group a high calorie diet. After 10 weeks the latter got split again. The third group was intermittently fed with high calorie diet for two weeks and then energy restricted diet for two weeks – this all repeated four times to last 16 weeks.

The findings

Cycling of overfeeding and underfeeding periods had the following consequences:

  • the overall energy expenditure of diet-cycled mice was reduced;
  • each diet cycle produced less weight loss;
  • diet cycling also increased the appetite for energy dense food;
  • the glucose tolerance diminished (Simonds et al.).

Simply put …

The study shows that diet cycling increases appetite and lowers the energy expenditure. Weight loss will get harder and less efficient each time we try to do it. The worse thing: the glucose tolerance gets diminished and this can be or can lead to prediabetes and closes the vicious circle.

What should we do?

We live in a society of unimaginable food availability and the worst food choices are the easiest, the most comfortable to make and also the cheapest. This makes any weight loss project and keeping what we managed to lose hard. We like to think that obesity is just an aesthetic issue, but the truth is, it is not. It bears repeating that obesity induces series of metabolic adaptations that traps us into a downward spiral of not being able to regain a normal, healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, you really should think long-term and find a “forever-diet”: diet cycling to be fit whenever deemed necessary and then to be fat when there’s a lack of motivation is not the way to go.

Yo-yo effect: shooting yourself in the foot

SIMONDS, S.E., PRYOR, J.T. and COWLEY, M.A. Repeated weight cycling in obese mice causes increased appetite and glucose intolerance. Physiology & Behavior, DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.05.026

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